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Divorcing in Hawaii

For couples who have been legally married, a Hawaii divorce is a dissolution of their marriage obligations by court decree or by marital agreement. A divorce decree or marital agreement sets forth the couple’s rights and responsibilities regarding the division of their property, assets and debts. It also establishes child support and spousal maintenance payments, child custody and visitation, and other issues relevant to the marital relationship.

Do You Need an Attorney?

Simple divorces are those with short duration, often involve no children under 18, and have few marital assets or debts. In addition, you and your spouse have no disputes regarding division of property. In these circumstances, you may be able to handle a divorce without legal representation and obtain a relatively fast divorce.

For most other divorces, a dissolution is a stressful, anxiety-ridden period where thoughtful and reasoned decisions are difficult to make and possible concessions are made that you may later regret. A Hawaii divorce lawyer can help relieve your stress, uncover assets that your spouse may have purposely failed to disclose, and generally advise you of how to protect your interests and rights.

Types of Divorce

You do need grounds to support your petition for divorce, but you need only allege:

  • An irretrievable breakdown of your marriage
  • That you and your spouse have been living separately and apart under a legal separation decree
  • That you and your spouse have been living separately and apart continuously for at least two years
  • You and your spouse have been living separately and apart continuously for at least two years with no chance for reconciliation or cohabitation

In other words, Hawaii is a no-fault divorce state. These circumstances of legal grounds also apply to same-sex couples who may enter into a recognized civil union in Hawaii.

Property and Debt Distribution

Hawaii has equitable distribution laws whereby the marital property, or property which you acquired during the marriage unless it was inherited or obtained by a personal injury settlement or award, is divided by the court pursuant to certain guidelines. These include the parties' financial circumstances, financial support capabilities, education, which parent has custody of the children, contributions to the marriage and other factors.

Changing Your Name

Generally, one spouse in a marriage adopts the last name of the other spouse. When filing a divorce decree or for dissolution of a civil union, spouses who changed their last name may elect to either keep their adopted last name or indicate in the decree that they wish to return to use of their last name used before the marriage or civil union or used during any prior marriage.

Tax Ramifications of Divorce

A marriage or civil union dissolution can have significant tax ramifications. If your spouse is awarded custody of the children, you may no longer claim yourself as head of household or take any dependency exemptions for your minor children. Your child support payments are not tax-deductible, and your spouse as the recipient does not have to claim the payments made as taxable income.

Spousal maintenance or alimony, however, is a deductible expense and is considered taxable income to whomever is the recipient.

Enforcement and Modification of Court Orders After Divorce

Should your former spouse refuse to abide by the divorce decree, you may return to court for an order forcing him or her to perform the court-ordered obligations. These usually include enforcement of the provisions regarding child support, visitation and payment of medical insurance or other debt obligations. If you are the one seeking enforcement, you may have your attorney’s fees paid by your ex-spouse.

You also can return to court to modify your rights pertaining to child support, visitation or spousal maintenance if you can demonstrate changed circumstances justifying your request for a modification. Property and debt divisions are ordinarily not subject to modification.

Why Contact an Attorney?

State laws and regulations pertaining to marriage and civil union dissolutions are changed or modified regularly. Speak to a Hawaii divorce lawyer about your legal rights and options.

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